Q. I am the oldest (age 62) of seven children, and I have been financially fortunate.
I would like to share my good fortune with my siblings by giving them each an amount of money, but I don’t know how to go about doing it.
It seems kind of crass to just hand each of them a check.
A couple of my siblings really need the money and the rest do not, but I want to give them all an equal amount.
How can I do it in a fun way without looking like I’m giving alms to the poor?
A. It might help you to wrestle with this awesome dilemma if you think of your plan as “sharing” versus “giving.”
Check with your financial adviser, and implement the plan with your (and your recipients’) tax implications in mind. According to the IRS (irs.gov), in 2017, the limit for tax-exempt gifts to individuals is $14,000 — meaning that your siblings can receive a generous cash gift of up to that amount without having to pay taxes on it.
No, I don’t think you should hand each of your siblings a check.
You should keep this simple. Send each of them a note and a check on the same day by secure means.
Write something to the effect of: “I’ve been very lucky, and feel that part of my good luck is to have you as a sibling. I’ve reached a phase in my life where I am happy to share my good fortune with people who mean a lot to me. Please accept this gift. I hope you will use it in whatever way makes you happy.”
Understand before you do this that some people are uncomfortable receiving gifts that they can never reciprocate. Some of your siblings may have an unexpected reaction to it. You might have one or more checks returned to you. You might not receive the acknowledgment or thanks that you feel you deserve.
This is the heavy lift of generosity: When you give, you have to also let go. In this case, letting go translates into not only letting go of your assets, but also any expectation attached to your generosity.
Q. This isn’t exactly a request for advice, I guess, but really I just want to hear some wisdom from you (if you have any on this subject).
I’m wondering about breakups. I’m an almost 30-year-old woman, and I’ve been in a handful of serious relationships. Sometimes I end it, and sometimes the other person ends it.
I get it that no one probably enjoys ending a relationship, but I seem to take breakups particularly hard. I wonder why this is, and if there are things I can do to avoid feeling this way in the future.
A. One surefire way to avoid a painful breakup is to avoid a committed love relationship. (If you’re going to go this route, I’d suggest that you not only avoid people, but pets, too.)
My point is that any attachment will eventually lead to loss. Sometimes, the very concept of attachment gets a bad rap, but I think that attachment to fellow living creatures is something to celebrate, as long as you aren’t too tethered to a particular outcome.
After a breakup, you feel so bad because you feel so much.
A breakup usually starts with drama and ends in grief. True grieving involves heartache. Your heart/gut/head actually hurts. No one wants to feel this way. Our human instincts scream out to avoid feeling this way. Some people medicate their way around their grief with alcohol, drugs, and one-night stands.
A brave person feels her feelings when she is having them.
Understand your own temperament, and look for healthy ways to soothe yourself when you feel bad. What works for me is spending time in nature and listening to (and making) music, reading Mary Oliver and watching old episodes of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”
You might benefit from the wisdom of the Buddhist thinker Pema Chodron. Listen to her lecture “Don’t Bite the Hook.”
Q. Poor “Upset Mother!” She was worried because her daughter-in-law decided to spend her 40th birthday with friends, instead of with her husband and kids.
Boohoo. Let this woman do what she wants. It’s her birthday!
A. I can understand why this woman’s husband and kids were upset by her choice to spend her 40th birthday 3,000 miles away, but it was not “Upset Mother’s” business.
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